AUGUSTA, Ga. — Phil Mickelson is second on the PGA Tour’s career money list with more than $73 million, and among his 42 tour victories are five major championships, including the Masters three times.
Mickelson, obviously, has separated himself from almost everybody when it comes to his golf, but he spoke for golfers everywhere — and of every skill level — when he met the media Friday afternoon following his second-round 73 at Augusta National Golf Club.
“I keep making these triples,” Mickelson said. “They’re tough to overcome.”
Why yes, Phil, yes they are.
One triple bogey on his scorecard would have allowed Mickelson to make the 36-hole cut. But two triples? That was one too many, and just enough to send Mickelson home early, for only the second time in his Masters career, which started when he was an amateur in 1991.
His second triple bogey of the week came Friday at the par-3 12th hole, guarded by Rae’s Creek, which has been known to drown the dreams of many a Masters hopeful. Tom Weiskopf made a 13 there in the 1980 Masters.
Mickelson, though, kept his golf ball dry the entire time. It was his short game that let him down. More specifically, it was his bunker play.
After hitting his tee shot into the front bunker, Mickelson’s second shot went through the green and into the back bunker. His third shot went across the green again and back into the front bunker. He blasted his next shot on, then two-putted for a crushing 6.
Each shot would prove costly. Mickelson finished two rounds at 5 over par. The cut came at 4 over, so for the first time since 1997, Mickelson had failed to make it. One of the early-week favorites, Mickelson instead is headed home, where he’ll likely watch on television.
“It’s an exciting tournament, I probably will [watch],” Mickelson said. “Kind of be my punishment.”
Since Tiger Woods is also on the figurative couch, recovering from back surgery, it will mark the first time in 20 years that neither Mickelson nor Woods will be playing on the weekend at the Masters. Neither played the Masters in 1994; they’ve combined for seven titles here, and just three missed cuts, since then.
Mickelson’s first triple bogey was on Thursday, when he made a 7 at the par-4 seventh hole (again without a penalty stroke, and again the result of his short game). He would add another 7 later in the first round, at the par-5 15th.
In 82 career rounds at the Masters before this week, Mickelson had never made worse than bogey at No. 7, and had never made worse than double bogey at the 12th.
He blamed a lack of mental sharpness.
“What I’ve been nervous about is a hole like 7 yesterday, a hole like 12 today,” he said. “Instead of one sliding, two or three are going away. That’s the kind of stuff when you’re playing tournament golf and you’re mentally sharp, you don’t do. And that’s the kind of stuff I seem to be doing right now.”
After the triple at 12 Mickelson tried to rally, sandwiching birdies at Nos. 14, 15, and 17 around a bogey at the 16th. But he left himself a lengthy downhill slider for birdie at the last, and couldn’t get the putt to fall.
There was still a chance — if enough players ahead of Mickelson dropped shots and came back — that the cut line would move from 4 over to 5 over. But that didn’t happen, shutting the door on Mickelson and the others at 5 over — a group that included Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, and Webb Simpson, who bogeyed his final two holes.